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Applications of accountability in Islam

Rashid Mateen Khan
Riphah international University

To a Muslim, all resources are given by Allah, and only Allah is the owner of all the
wealth. Individuals are only trustees and that accountability is ultimately due to Allah.
The purpose of the religious audit is to assure everybody that Allah’s laws are being
followed by the firm in its business dealings1. There must be some board with religious
supervisors who give advice to the organization about the contractual arrangements and
new product development according to the religious laws. All the shareholders should be
informed about the management that there are fulfilling all the Islamic principles and that
the business is run islamically. They should also look in to it that the Zakat fund is being
correctly assessed and properly administered and distributed.2

In the Holy Qur'an, for example, the word hesab is used for accountability. It is repeated
more than eight times in different verses3. Allah says, “…when a disaster befalls them
because of what there hands have sent forth…” According to this worse, Allah has an
account maintained for every individual, which he will b accountable for. Therefore, the
basic similarity between hesab in Islam and accounting lies in the responsibility of every
Muslim to carry out duties as described in the Holy Qur'an. Similarly, in a business
organization, both management and the investors are accountable for their actions both
within and outside their firm. They must earn wealth from halal means. The importance
of this can easily be accessed by a tradition in which the Holy Prophet Muhammad
(PBUH) asked Hazrat Bilal (R.A) about a handful of dates that he brought with himself
that by which means he has got them. Thus, Lewis suggests that the economic recovery
of the Muslim world will require free markets, just government, and a well-defined and
protected system of private property4.

Muslims cannot work on there own will. There actions are bound by shariah. Islamic law
also tells about some duties and practices including worship, prayer, manners and morals,
along with commercial transactions and business practices. Muslim should conduct their
business activities in accordance with the requirement of their religion to be fair, honest
and just toward others. Business activity must be guided by the concepts of goodness and
trust in Allah. Along with these a legal framework should also be followed committed to
justice and the ban on riba and the prohibition of hoarding etc. Thus an economic activity
within the positive parameters is allowed and praiseworthy; and within the negative
parameters prohibited and blameworthy. Many verses in the Holy Qur'an encourage trade
Mervyn K Lewis, Accountability and Islam, University of South Australia – City West Campus
Mervyn K Lewis, Accountability and Islam, University of South Australia – City West Campus
Askary S. and Clarke F. (1997), ‘Accounting in the Koranic Verses’, Proceedings of International
conference, The Vehicle for Exploring and Implementing Shariah Islami ‘iah in Accounting, Commerce
and inance, Macarthur: University of Western Sydney.
Mervyn K Lewis, Accountability and Islam, University of South Australia – City West Campus
and commerce, and the attitude of Islam is that there should be no impediment to honest
and legitimate trade and business, so that people earn a living, support their families and
give charity to those less fortunate. Allah says, “O you who believe, eat not up your
property among yourselves unjustly, except it be a trade amongst you by mutual
consent.” (4:29) The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH said, "Nothing shall be legitimate to a
Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly."
Muslims should not allow their business activities to dominate so that making money
becomes a first priority and they neglect religious duties. Allah says in the Quran, “Men
whom neither sale nor trade diverts them from the remembrance neither of Allah, nor
from performing salaat, nor from giving Zakat. They fear the day when hearts and eyes
will be over turned.” (24:37) In particular, all trading must cease during the time of the
Friday congregational prayer.

The Qur’an also contains some details of contract law. The legal structure of Islamic law
comes from the analyses of the legal scholars in the light of Quran and Sunnah. Allah
says in Quran, “O People who believe! If you make an agreement for debt for a specified
time, write it down; and appoint a scribe to write it for you with accuracy; and the scribe
must not refuse to write in the manner Allah has taught him, so he must write; and the
liable person (debtor ) should dictate it to him and fear Allah, Who is his Lord, and not
hide anything of the truth; but if the debtor is of poor reasoning, or weak, or unable to
dictate, then his guardian must dictate with justice; and appoint two witnesses from your
men; then if two men are not available, one man and two women from those you would
prefer to be witnesses, so that if one of them forgets, the other can remind her; and the
witnesses must not refuse when called upon to testify; do not feel burdened to write it,
whether the transaction is small or big - write it for up to its term's end; this is closer to
justice before Allah and will be a strong evidence and more convenient to dispel doubts
amongst yourselves - except when it is an instant trade in which exchange is carried out
immediately, there is no sin on you if it is not written down; and take witnesses whenever
you perform trade; and neither the scribe nor the witnesses be caused any harm (or they
cause any harm); and if you do, it would be an offence on your part; and fear Allah; and
Allah teaches you; and Allah knows everything.”(2:282). This translation of the verse of
Quran explains in detail how contracts should be made and how they should be managed.

Islam requires every individual to work and to produce. Prophet Muhammad teaches,
“Never be lazy and helpless”. In the Holy Qur’an Allah says, “To all are degrees (or
ranks) according to their deeds.” (6:132) in this context, individual should work so that it
benefits others and society. Subsequently, those who work hard are acknowledged and
are rewarded. And those who don’t will be accountable for it.
Similarly, luxury and over-consumption is condemned in Islam. Every being should live
in dignity. The system is balanced out through the act of Zakat. The aim of the Islamic
economic system is to allow people to earn their living in a fair and profitable way
without exploitation of others, so that the whole society may benefit.

A Muslim business person should be a person of high moral values who would not set out
to deceive or exploit others. Monopolies and price fixing are prohibited. The market
should be free and not managed by force. This is so that people will not be exploited by
the more powerful in business transactions. Those engaging in trade and commerce
should behave fairly. Once the Prophet was very angry at a person who sold oats and hide
the defected ones underneath and said that, “A person guilty of fraud is not one of us”.
Vendors of goods should not hide any defects in them, nor lie about the weight or quality
of the goods. Allah says in Quran, “And observe the weight in equity and do not make
the balance deficient.” (55:9) Dealing in stolen goods is prohibited. Hoarding is forbidden
when the intention is to force up the price in times of scarcity and so profit at the expense
of others.

Products should be useful and not harmful as defined in the Holy Qur'an and Islamic law.
Trading and investment can only be undertaken in activities which are not prohibited in
Islam (prohibitions include gambling, alcohol, pornography and anything that is harmful
to society). Agriculture and employment is encouraged as are dignity of labor, and the
prompt payment of a fair wage. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said to give the labor
his wage before he has relaxed from his work.